August 13 2010
I once overheard an irritated visitor to the Edinburgh Fringe rather comically yell across a dining table to his partner, “Little did Shakespeare know when writing ‘Unquiet meals make for ill digestions’ that it would become part of a play that fans would enthuse about so loudly, it would ruin my meal!” He was of course sitting amid the swell of theatre-goers who engulf Scotland’s capital at this time of year, creating a great buzz but ensuring that the finest eateries are unpleasantly crowded and loud.
What the disgruntled diner didn’t know is that savvy locals simply decamp to Leith for the evening. It’s perfect: a short distance from the city centre (a mere 10 minutes by car), but far enough to ensure that it’s beyond the reach of unknowing visitors. And the area is arguably the unsung gem of the east coast culinary scene, boasting numerous Michelin-starred restaurants.
Three are worth mentioning. First, Martin Wishart’s eponymous diner, with menu highlights that include pavé of turbot mouiginoisse, Dornoch lamb and asparagus tortellini, and a pleasantly adventurous vegetarian taster menu. Three courses for £60.
The Kitchin is also a worthwhile stop for gastronomes escaping the bustle. It’s the project of chef Tom Kitchin, and the Land and Sea Surprise Tasting Menu (£65) – with ever-changing dishes determined by the day’s catch – is always great.
And lastly, my favourite, the Plumed Horse. It’s by far the least aesthetically pleasing of the trio, with an almost crumbling façade and a rather boring cream interior, but the food is fabulous. I particularly love the mille feuille of crab and langoustines with passion fruit mayonnaise, although the roast ribeye of Scottish veal with two-truffle sauce (first picture) is a firm favourite with diners; likewise the “Jaffa Cake” and Mandarin Sorbet (second picture).
Sitting with a glass of wine, surrounded by the quiet chatter of locals and actors reviewing the day’s performances, you’ll feel refreshingly aloof from the manic city centre.
Three courses for £49 at the Plumed Horse.